It is hard to find new descriptions to define the Kruger National Park. Suffice to say that each time we go there we are filled with wonder at the scale of its unspoilt wilderness. What a heritage we as South Africans have in this amazing place. By Doreen Hansen
Two weeks ago our sons took us to the northern part of Kruger, a section we are not too familiar with. Our sons Arne and Cuan are avid bird-watchers so we were going to find out what it was like to be in a vehicle that stops more often than it moves forward.
Early one morning we were creeping along towards Punda Maria when our sons pointed out a shadow in the road ahead. The word ‘leopard’ was whispered. Very slowly Arne proceeded to approach the leopard, which did not appear to be very interested in us. The engine was switched off and the vehicle rolled forward until we were alongside the leopard. Suddenly the leopard started to stalk something in the grass: he dropped down and we realised that we were parked on top of a drain. The leopard had chased his prey into the culvert/drain and was checking to see if it was still there. We heard a great deal of growling and hissing, clearly the prey was still down there. Within a few minutes the leopard popped back up onto the road; there was no blood on him so he obviously had not yet killed what was in the drain.
Now he started to take an interest in our vehicle. Stealthily he moved along the driver’s side of our vehicle smelling at the wheels and doors. We watched enthralled and marvelled at his incredible beauty. Slowly he moved around to the passenger side of the vehicle and walked right up to the front door. Suddenly Cuan in the front passenger seat ducked down and said: “Close the window, close the window.” There was real desperation in his voice. Arne, sitting in the driver’s seat, looked incredulous and started to ask why Cuan was not closing the window himself, and then realised that the engine was switched off when we were approaching the leopard. Electric windows only work when the ignition is switched on. Frantically the key was turned and the front passenger window started to roll up, it seemed to take forever to close. In the meantime the leopard’s head was almost level with the window.
All four of us were lame with fright and quite breathless. Then quietly Arne said: “Too much of action.” That broke the tension and we all had a good laugh.
This magnificent creature lay down on the road next to our vehicle and for the next 35 minutes we sat and enjoyed this world class experience. Eventually another car came along and the leopard moved down to the drain, checked his prey one more time, more growling and hissing and then slowly moved off into the bush.
One bit of advice, keep your vehicle windows closed if you don’t want too much action.